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The World's Greatest Tenors - Jussi Bjorling
The World’s Greatest Tenors – Jussi Bjorling
When you think about the world’s greatest tenors you usually think about Italians like Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, Franco Corelli, or Luciano Pavorotti. Mario Lanza was also of Italian descent although he was born in Philadelphia.
The only other ethnic group that even comes close to the Italians is the Jews with Richard Tauber, Josef Schmidt, Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker.
But there are also great tenors from other countries. Spain has Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. Ireland had John McCormack, Denmark had Lauritz Melchoir and Germany had Fritz Wunderlich and perhaps the greatest of them all was Jussi Bjoerling from Sweden.
Jussi Bjorling was often referred to as the Swedish Caruso so let us begin with one of Caruso’s recordings followed by Jussi Bjorling’s version.
"Una Furtiva Lagrima" from L"Elisir d Amore"
The World's Greatest Tenors
Una Furtiva Lagrima sung by Caruso
Una Furtiva Lagrima sung by Jussi Bjorling
Jussi Bjorling was born in 1911 in Borlange Sweden. His father was a singing teacher and he trained Jussi and his three brothers. His father died in 1926 and Jussi made his debut at the Royal Opera in Stockholm in 1930.
In 1936, Jussi toured Central Europe with great success, which resulted in his first international record contract. One of his first recordings was "Celeste Aida", which follows.
In 1938, Jussi Bjorling made his Metropolitan Opera debut in La Boheme. After that, he returned to the Met as a leading tenor almost every year with the exception of the war years. The following video is from a duet that he performed with Renata Tebaldi in 1956.
"Che Gelida Manina"
from "La Boheme"
Che Gelida Manina - Duet with Renata Tebaldi - 1956
From 1938 to 1943, Jussi Bjorling sang 121 performances with the Metropolitan Opera. During World War II, he returned to Sweden and appeared at concerts in Denmark, Finland, Germany and Hungary. In 1945, he began his longest American tour starting in October and finishing in May of the following year. In august of 1946, he sang at La Scala, in Milan, Italy, for the first time.
In 1950, he began a series of opera recordings in New York. Perhaps the most famous one was the
"Pearlfishers duet " which he recorded with Robert Merrill in 1951.
The Pearl Fishers Duet - Jussi Bjorling and Robert Merrill
During the last years of his life, Jussi Bjorling continued to sing frequently in the USA, where he maintained a hectic schedule in spite of heart problems. He sang his last performance at the Royal Opera in Stockholm in March of 1960 and he died in his sleep on September 9 of the same year. He was survived by his wife Anna-Lisa Berg Bjorling and three children. His struggles with alcoholism most likely contributed to his early death.
On September 6, 2007, a Swedish daily newspaper published an article which quoted Luciano Pavarotti as saying:
"When I am about to train a new opera, I first listen to how Jussi Bjorling did it. His voice was unique and it’s his path that I want to follow. I would more than anything else wish that people compared me to Jussi Bjorling. It’s like so I’m striving to sing."
I close this Hub with a recording by Jussi Bjorling which I am particularly fond of:
"Cielo e mar"
from "La Giaconda."
Borlange, Sweden where Jussi Bjorling was born
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